Carol Bennett   © 2010 All Rights Reserved

Isla Mujeres

Waking up fevered in a foreign country, the bedclothes soaked,
    my throat parched as a barren field, swatches of dreams float past,

like how I slinked behind an uncle at the Sunday table
    to sip Coca-Cola from his glass, too timid to ask my grandmother

for my own. The sound of my voice croaking Invictus to half-deaf aunts
    nodding on the couch had me willing my nine-year body to vanish like smoke.

Back from Japan, my mother made me pick between two faux-silk robes.
    I coveted the jade with plum blossoms but convinced myself it looked better

on my sister’s fairer skin. Do certain trees feel less, or more, entitled to
    their patch of dirt and air? Do we ever outgrow childhood? And do scapulars

really save, like the two-faced medal wedged into the sidewalk—Christ’s bleeding heart
    on one side, Immaculate Mary on the other? In a dark alley, my friend Melissa
clutched hers while praying “Mother Mary, may those who see me
    be reminded,” and the man with the knife left her. Lying in half-light, an iron vise

seizing my gut, even my hand is unfamiliar and everyone I know has gone fishing.
    I can pretend to believe almost anything, even the efficacy of a pendant

embedded in my neck. I try to pray, but all that comes is a string of Spanish phrases
    memorized on the train and the first lines of Padre Nuestro. Repeat what you know,

a teacher once said, and the rest will follow. I intone it like a mantra—
    Hagase tu voluntad, Thy will be done—but all that returns is the sea’s roar

like drowned names of towns we crossed in the night.



Angela Narciso Torres
Copyright © 2010  

Angela Narciso Torres’s poems have appeared in the Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, North American Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, Rattle, and the anthology Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she edits RHINO magazine. She received a Ragdale artist residency in 2010.

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